If it’s August, it must be high corn season—when many farmers claim their ears are the best. Doubtless among these are the butter-and-sugar crop harvested from the fields of in Mystic.
Whittle’s Market at 1030 Noank Ledyard Road offers more than a century of experience, a lot of corn and a plethora of fruits and vegetables that includes peaches, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, squash, apples and honey. They also carry produce from other farms.
While shoppers selected tomatoes or peaches, or potatoes or peppers, just about everyone this recent afternoon added at least a half-dozen ears of corn to their order as they readied to pay in the open-air stand with the green-and-white awning. Silver Queen ran out earlier for the day, but the butter-and-sugar flew out of the stuffed red bins rolling along a metal-wheeled conveyor from the building’s back room to the front, where farm owner Rick Whittle’s daughter Olivia, along with another young woman and young man, put them in brown paper bags for a stream of customers.
While it gets crowded in the strip of parking between the cornfields and the tomato plants, Whittle’s also packs ’em in come fall with pick-your-own pumpkins in the fields and pick-your-own apples off the trees.
Twenty-year-old Olivia Whittle, who is biased but nonetheless backed up by customers’ corn compliments, said people say their farm has the best corn.
“People buy it and send it to California,” she said. “Can’t get corn as good as ours.”
The secret? “Some people like to say it’s our soil. I say it’s because it’s grown with love.”
No arguing with that, but you also can’t write about corn without talking to 87-year-old John “Whit” Davis, who doubles as an encyclopedia of corn. He is proprietor of Pawcatuck’s Stanton Davis Farm, established in the mid-1600s by Thomas Stanton, one of Stonington’s founders. The butter-and-sugar corn is so sweet and wonderful that one of his customers recently said she didn’t even cook it – just cut it right off the cob and ate some and froze some, so she and her husband would feel a little bit of summer when they add it to a winter meal.
Davis and his wife, Velora (the younger one, she says, at 86), sell corn, other vegetables and eggs at three markets: Stonington Borough from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays; across from the nature center on Mystic’s Pequotsepos Road from noon to 3 p.m. Sundays; and off Route 1 at 50 Old Stonington Road from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays.
While Davis’ corn on the cob ranks high on the taste meter, he probably is more famous for his flint corn meal, which is about as heirloom as you can get.
“A thousand years,” Davis said from his stand near the town docks. “Beats your tomato heirlooms.”
From the Mayas to the Incas to the Aztecs to the Apache to up here, Davis said, as he must have more than a thousand times before. One or more diamond-shaped kernels on this white corn, Davis said pointing to one on an ear he held, denote that it is the original strain grown by the Indians that dries as hard as flint before it is ground.
“You can’t buy this in the store,” he said of the 1.5 pounds of corn meal packed in a sealed plastic bag for sale at the markets and labeled in part: Davis Farm / Pawcatuck, CT USA / CORN MEAL / Authentic Indian White Flint Corn
Along with cornbread and muffins, Davis said, the cornmeal tastes great as a coating for flounder.You can try some cooked for you across the Pawcatuck River from the Davis Farm at Westerly’s , where you’ll find on the menu the original Jonny Cakes made with flint cornmeal.
In passing, I heard about other favorites, such as Bessette’s corn, sold out of a farm wagon on Pawcatuck’s River Road, and Carpenters Farm corn, delivered daily to McQuade’s Marketplace in Westerly from the Matunuck Beach Road farm in Wakefield.
It seems most people have a favorite place with the best corn. What’s yours? We’d love to know.